WXXI Local Stories
Mon March 19, 2007
Spitzer Won't be Deterred by a Late Budget
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York – Governor Spitzer said for the first time Monday that he's willing to put up with a late state budget in order to get the right budget.
There's less than two weeks to go until the deadline for the state budget, and Governor Spitzer says he's getting very little cooperation from the State Senate. Spitzer and Senate Republicans have been mired in a fight over health care spending. The governor wants to cut money to hospitals and nursing homes, saying he wants Medicaid money to go to patients, not institutions. Senate Republicans have proposed restoring the entire $1.3 billion dollars in cuts.
Spitzer says if what he considers to be intransigence continues, he won't let the pressure to achieve an on-time budget force him to make compromises.
"On time is important, getting it right is much more important," he said. "Anybody who thinks that somehow the prospect that my first year as governor I would be fearful of having a late budget, misunderstands fundamentally what my guiding principles as governor are all about."
Spitzer says he's willing to tolerate weeks without a state budget, if necessary. He did not say whether he'd consider shutting down the government, or whether he'd offer extender bills to keep government running, if the budget were late.
Spitzer, saying budget talks have not been "fruitful" up to this point, will hold an open meting with legislative leaders Tuesday morning. He says he wants Senate Republicans to present to him a new spending plan.
Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno says the Senate is sticking to it's budget plan, and the governor needs to be more willing to compromise if he wants to reach a deal on time.
"That's going to be really up to this governor on whether or not he wants to steamroll or whether he wants to negotiate," said Bruno.
Assembly Democrats have proposed a budget that restores part of the funding that Spitzer wants to cut. In a statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said stalled legislative budget conference committees can not be revived because the Senate "has been unwilling to discuss realistic spending targets".
New York's 20 years of late budgets helped earn the state the designation as the most dysfunctional government in the nation. Government reform groups harshly criticized previous governors and the legislature for the late budgets. Now, Spitzer has one of the most vocal critics, the Citizens Budget Commission, on his side. Diana Fortuna, who is President of the budget watchdog group founded by business interests, says while she isn't happy about the idea of a late budget, she prefers it to a bad budget.
"We had bad budgets happening in the month of August," she said, referring to record late budgets in the 1990's. "If a few weeks makes for a good budget, and April 1st makes for a bad budget, I would take the wait."
Senator Bruno shot back that the Citizens Budget Commission is biased. He called them "democrat operatives".
"I know they're joined in places with this Governor to just bash us, which is kind of silly and irresponsible," he said " In terms of being objective, give me a break."
Senator Bruno had his own supporters at his news event. A representative from the State School Boards Association said his group supports the Senate education aid distribution plan. A representative from a nursing home lobby group says his organization backs the Senate plan to restore nearly half a billion dollars in cuts to nursing homes.